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SALFORD COUNCIL AND CO TO SPEND £70,000 ON CULTURE CONSULTANTS
 

Star date: 2nd August 2017

OUTSIDE CULTURE CONSULTANTS TO SORT SALFORD CULTURE

As the 'Dirty Old Town' gasworks are to be demolished and an array of historic pubs lie in rubble, Salford City Council and its partners, The Lowry, Arts Council and Salford University, are commissioning consultants to come up with an arts, heritage and culture 'strategy' for the city... 

"Culture is recognised by investors, developers and communities as a critical part of a city's identity" a report states - except that loads of the city's heritage and culture has been trashed - and the £70,000 consultancy fee is probably double what is paid to grass roots groups in the city.

Full details here...


For decades, Salford has been run by cultural Philistines who have overseen the destruction of the community's art, culture and heritage in favour of everything being channelled through big institutions and developers.

The eleven year life of the Salford Star has witnessed the trashing of heritage sites, from the Salford Quays cranes to the Ordsall graffiti wall, and historic pubs like the Black Horse and Ye Olde Nelson.

Anyone who has tried to get anything cultural going in the community has either been financially starved out of the city, given up completely or are operating on virtually nothing in the shadows. As far as the community goes, it would be fair to say that Salford is almost a cultural desert.

Those who run the city have mainly seen indigenous culture as a threat, or not in keeping with some shiny new image that they have been intent on imposing. How many times have we heard senior councillors like John Merry and Derek Antrobus waffle on about how they want to rid the place of the 'dirty old town image'?

Indeed, not a peep has been heard about the imminent demolition of the Ordsall gasworks made world famous in Ewan MacColl's Dirty Old Town. MacColl's wife, Peggy Seeger, put forward an imaginative proposal for the structures to be converted into an environmental theme park - an iconic statement in the gateway to the city. But no. Salford Council delighted in telling everyone it was going to preserve a wall on the site that wasn't even in the original song lyrics.

Meanwhile, almost everything cultural has been chanelled into the officially sanctioned 'cultural quarter' of Chapel Street and Media City, with any grants being gobbled up by promoters and artists who have come in from outside the city; who 'speak the same language' as the establishment and can give developers a bit of 'hip'.

Any Salford artists who haven't fled the city and wish to exhibit are left with the walls of cafes or community centres - or, if they are really lucky, the back staircase of Salford Museum and Art Gallery.

A big community proposal for the publicly owned Buile Hill Mansion to be turned into a community run gallery and museum, learning space and meeting place has been constantly stonewalled by Salford Council.

It's fair to say that Salford City Council doesn't trust its own community to get anything together culturally. Which is why it's joined together with other top-down self-appointed purveyors of culture in the city, The Lowry (which had to be dragged kicking and screaming to go near the community); the University of Salford (Engels Beard climbing wall) and the Arts Council of England (big prestige schemes only!).

With these institutions the Council has formed the dull sounding Salford Cultural and Place Partnership (SCPP), which is currently tendering for outside consultants to work up a 'cultural strategy' for the city. And the consultants will be paid £70,000 for the work - roughly double what the Council currently doles out to grass roots arts groups in Salford...

...Although no-one knows the real figure because there's no actual proper transparent application process for groups or artists to apply for funding. It all appears to be based on the personal patronage of the City Mayor - itself a fucking disgrace.

"The ambition is to now place culture and the creative economy central to place-making and planning in Salford" the brief to consultants states with no irony "Culture is recognised by investors, developers and communities as a critical part of a city's identity, character and well-being. Civic leaders also understand that a city's unique cultural life is in fact its USP. For these reasons now is the time to examine Salford's unique cultural life.

"The cultural strategy will build on our strengths to: Establish Salford as a nationally and internationally acknowledged centre for culture: Embed culture in the making of places and the life of the whole city" it adds "...We recognise the tension between the need for strategic institutional work to create funding opportunities and the dual objective of making sure niche, independent organisations are not crushed by bureaucracy."

Trouble is that 'niche, independent organisations' embedded in the community have already been 'crushed'. Add to this the statement in the brief "that Cultural education also must move with the times and be responsive to the needs of employers and career progression", and it can be seen where this 'strategy' is going...

The brief is full of stultifying language that sounds like it was drawn up by a committee that has never 'danced beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free'...

"Collaborative working in the interests of a common good are at the heart of Salford's culture and has led to the on going transformation of the City's economic base" it yawns "The story of Salford Quays, the creation of MediaCityUK and continued development illustrates the shared ambitions of a mature partnership. This partnership approach is needed more than ever to address new global challenges and create local opportunities...

"The cultural strategy aims to ensure the infrastructure and priorities are in place to support the delivery of an innovative, inclusive and sustainable cultural offer" it adds, and to "...Preserve and develop our cultural heritage and make it relevant and applicable to today and tomorrow, to all of Salford's communities but also people across the world" etc etc...

It's corporate drivel of the highest calibre, when set against what is actually happening to heritage, culture and art in the city. In practice, almost anywhere that heritage, culture and art happens has been privatised, corporatized, handed to developers or stifled...with the community encouraged to be a passive part of some sideshow tickbox exercise.

There was no 'cultural strategy' that allowed Salford's biggest culture phenomenons to flourish - from Happy Mondays to New Order, Lowry to Central Station Design, Tony Wilson to the Salford Players...just a bit of uncontrolled freedom to experiment and imagine.

Does anyone in the city, apart from those with a stake in the trough, expect a cultural strategy designed by £70,000 outside consultants, being whipped by Salford City Council, The Lowry, the Arts Council and Salford University, to be of real benefit to the community?


The Salford Star comment box is open...

* The main image shows Salford Graffiti Wall before the Council covered it in anti-vandal paint

Alice Searle wrote
at 18:53:39 on 03 August 2017
Just a couple of advanced notices demonstrating our community culture and heritage. Without consultants that we are going to set up a Kersal Moor Heritage Centre...where....well, on the ground that was part of Salford's heritage in the days of the Racecourse and Chartists but now owned by football millionaires . Just claiming back the community's history. Also an exhibition of artistic talent from the residents of Kersal will be on show in the winter months. We need to shout out about our skills and our talents without paying for experts to show us what we can do. More, on these cultural, community developments later in the Salford Star. Nobody's paying us!
 
white wrote
at 10:05:27 on 03 August 2017
I do feel somewhat concerned that this controversy is concentrating on, what might be described as, ‘old’ Salford. It is quite true that much of this area is being drastically changed, often not for the better; however when ‘culture and heritage’ is under discussion, one should not forget that since 1972, many other areas, with their own characteristic ‘heritage and culture’, come under the umbrella of Salford. Granted, these areas are not generally suffering the depredations of old Salford, indeed many are benefiting from change, but we should not be so short-sighted as to ignore
 
Mary Ferrer wrote
at 07:24:28 on 03 August 2017
I have been saying it for years.This council don't give a stuff about our heritage, history or culture.we have lost so much over the years to make way for very ugly carbuncles. We haven't even got a heritage officer. Can wait to see what we get for £70.000. Better hurry up won't be much left
 
Virtual reality wrote
at 23:57:25 on 02 August 2017
Maybe they could spend millions and millions setting up a virtual reality cultural centre, where you could view the mining museum and mansion at Buile Hillpark, the cranes at the docks,Victorian terraced Streets,the gas works, the Langworthy hotel and every other thing the thick bastards have demolished or let fall derelict? Probably will be a shiny piece of stainless steel crap sculpture that the council will end up paying £1000's and £1000's to manage.
 
tony flynn wrote
at 20:00:08 on 02 August 2017
Erm, don't we have a culture councillor with Ann Marie Humpreys or do I stand corrected...
 
Bob wrote
at 19:59:59 on 02 August 2017
I like to think that I know a bit about most things, but culture things are not one of my strongest subjects. However even I can pick up a bit on what is right or wrong on this department. I think that on the point of the Salford Star hoping for one minute that the tossers at clown hall might have a bit in the cultural dept is a bit of wishful thinking to far. You have no chance. But it did make me think a bit. In our city, one thing we do have is rather a lot of people that we can class as heavyweights on the cultural scene. You know who I am talking about .Could perhaps someone have a word in their ears, to see if they could have a chat with someone like Banksey. You never Know.
 
Hugh wrote
at 18:22:27 on 02 August 2017
Spending £70,000 on this when they expect the public to fund a baby unit, and they're going to have a massive bill with regards to the botched renovations? The mayor and councillors are obviously going to benefit somehow from it.
 
life is loud wrote
at 18:22:17 on 02 August 2017
Sounds good but a costly venture
 
Joe O'Neill wrote
at 17:00:01 on 02 August 2017
Culture the only type Salford Labour understand is the type found in the bottom of the cups littered in their free coffee lounge. The salford we once loved is gone the past torn out by people who have lost touch with what the people want, people visit cities normally to see it's past buildings, museums landmarks, even those wishing to sample what modern Salford as to offer struggle due to the fact most buildings of worth use Manchester in it's address.
 
wrote
at 13:52:48 on 02 August 2017
Funny how a few council members who probably despise the fact they are from Salford (probably tell people Worsley when asked) are in charge of decorating a place they and their predecessors have made a grim blank canvas of cladding and shut down pubs. The odds on money says it will spent on weird pieces of art statues nobody understands and an obscure garden to compliment freed domes new flats. Possibly more speed bumps along chapel at.
 
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